Sunday 16 July 2023, 05:00

Aotearoa New Zealand to embrace poi during FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023

FIFA and the New Zealand government are working alongside tangata whenua (indigenous Māori communities) to foster national pride through the flight of poi. Poi will be distributed in-stadia to celebrate and honour wāhine (women) throughout the tournament, and beyond. "Poi" is the Māori word for "ball" on a cord. Poi was used, many years ago, by Māori (the indigenous people of Aotearoa, New Zealand) to increase their flexibility and strength in their hands and arms, as well as improving coordination. Traditional poi was made from raupō (bullrush) and harakeke (flax). Dry raupō leaves are the traditional material used for covering poi, which are then filled with the fluffy down from the seed heads. Harakeke is then plaited and connected to the head of the poi to form the rope.

A Maori Kapa Haka group perform with poi during the Tamaki Herenga Waka Festival

These days, poi is made with modern materials (wool, string, cotton, and plastic). In action, poi is swung rhythmically against arms, hands, and hips as dancers sing waiata (songs). Māori across the country have their own unique genealogies and history which add to the way they make poi; these subtle differences also contribute to the diverse range of poi that will be on display during the tournament. Poi is a key component of any kapahaka (Māori performing group) performance from young children to adults. Poi is also an international symbol of empowerment that has assumed an important role within major events. What is Poi Tukua? Poi Tukua is a national project building upon the excitement and momentum of previous sporting world cups and the stages of Te Matatini Kapahaka Festival. The phrase, Poi Tukua, was aptly coined by Sir Tīmoti Karetu to send poi beyond te ao Māori (Māori culture). The Poi Tukua project aims to build a legacy and nurture the journey of poi as it takes flight once again. The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 offers an exciting platform, using poi to celebrate wāhine (women), express pride for Māori culture, and welcome manahuri (international visitors) to Aotearoa New Zealand. There will be poi educational resources developed, a waiata (song) composed in te reo Māori to celebrate poi, and FIFA Fan Festival activations led by mana whenua and host city organisations to support and empower people to cherish poi and confidently wield one. FIFA and the New Zealand government have invested significantly to procure a large number of poi from Māori businesses and communities. These poi will be distributed in-stadia to support our female athletes throughout the life of the tournament and beyond. Where will I find poi during the tournament and beyond? You will see poi distributed at stadiums to support teams and players. Poi is a treasured possession of Māori culture, so it is strongly encouraged that poi are then taken home and cared for by those who receive one. Visit for more information about poi tikanga (protocols) and the Poi Tukua project.